We normally visit the festival every other year as not only are the show gardens a talking point but we also enjoy the land art and sculptures exhibited within the grounds as well as the art within parts of the chateau. The theme for the 28th, Paradise Gardens, interested us particularly. I had assisted students from the University of Greenwich on a garden 4 years ago so not only did I realise how tight the 11,000 euro budget was but also the potential and constrictions of the build over 2 months from February to April. The planting has to look ‘verdant’ from day one and continue through with seasonal change until November. The in – house maintenance team gave good advise on the conditions in this part of the Loire.

This was our concept: The Singing Garden seeks to enchant and create a sense of wonder in the viewer. The work is an invitation to dream, perhaps to transport you to the Persian Pairidaeza of the Koran, where the fruiting aromatic plants captivate our senses and the melodious song of birds tempt us to reflect on a time when humans and the natural world lived in harmony.

The dawn chorus lures the viewer through the portal, past a planted screen into the enclosed beauty of the woodland of fruiting trees which  provide a cool resting place, an opportunity to lie back on the cushions, relax, gaze upward to the filtered tracery of the sky and the ornamental nests of exotic birds.

The magic is there for children and adults alike. The Singing Garden questions our perception of nature and the enclosed space. The use of sound will evoke the fragile but resilient  character inherent in the natural world. The sound will rise and fall silent, reminding us that human impact on the world we share can be destructive to other life forms. At heart the message is one of hope without complacency.

 The planting emphasises the practical aims, the plants that provide fruits, oils, seeds, whilst enchanting with colour and form. Recycled hard materials are used with subtlety and to acknowledge the ecological dilemmas that we are faced with today.

 We hope that The Singing Garden will create tranquility whilst raising important questions about our outside spaces, both cultivated and wild.

Following our application (Anny’s visual formed the centre piece) . . . ,

. . . we heard nothing for a long time. However, when we got the nod, work began in earnest including a more detailed set of drawings; sourcing a sound consultant who assisted with technicalities advising on amplifiers and loudspeakers to be housed in the surrounding hedging (we wanted to use bird song and other wildlife sounds from the natural environment ; sourcing a willow worker (Blaise Cayol who works from Tavel in the Gard https://www.celuiquitresse.com) for the screen and the nests that were to be hung in the 14 Malus ‘Evereste’. Plants were to be sourced via the Domaine. Mostly of good quality but a few less so. First site visit to our alloted ‘parcelle’ on a cold January day . . .

. . . the plot was smaller than the surveyors diagram so we had to adjust and rejig but we liked this plot immensely especially the overhanging branches from, and the presence of the large oak just beyond.

The main contractor was local and efficient – thank you Julien Bourdin https://www.bourdin-terrassement-paysage.fr

We made 3 visits of about 4 days each during the build with final planting in the second week of April – a frost followed us across the Loire. . .

Once the garden was complete and open on April 25th, the maintenance team took control. It was good to see and hear the public response especially to the sound element within the garden especially from the school groups during our visits in May and July.  I would have liked to ‘finesse’ the planting early on – all the digitalis disappeared and the substitute roses were very disappointing – but that’s a no-no’.

IMG_1496 copy

click on this link for some sound

The Festival closes on November 3rd and most of the gardens will be taken apart.

I see that I used this poem in August 2010 blogging about nurturing and producing crops on the allotment in Hastings. I feel it’s apt as an adjunct here primarily for the classical references – the Loire valley being packed with mythological, classical and traditional allusions in architecture, landscape and literature.

 

Lady of kitchen-gardens, learned

In the ways of the early thin-skinned rhubarb,

Whose fingers fondle each gooseberry bristle,

Stout currants sagging on their flimsy stalks,

And sprinting strawberries, that colonise

As quick as Rome.

Goddess of verges,  whose methodical

Tenderness fosters the vagrant croppers,

Gawky raspberries refugees from gardens,

Hip, sloe, juniper, blackberry, crab,

Humble abundance of health, hedge, copse,

The layabouts’ harvest.

Patron of orchards, pedantic observer

Of rites, of prune, graft, spray and pick,

In whose honour the Bramley’s branches

Bow with their burly cargo, from grass-deep

To beyond ladders, you who teach pears their proper shape,

And brush the ripe plum’s tip with a touch of crystal.

I know your lovers, earth’s grubby godlings;

Silvanus, whose province is muck-heaps

And electric fences; yaffle-headed Picus;

Faunus the goatman. All of them friends

Of the mud-caked cattle, courting you gruffly

With awkward, touching gifts.

But I am irrepressible, irresponsible

Spirit of Now; no constant past,

No predictable future. All my genius

Goes into moments. I have nothing to give

But concentration and alteration.  Pomona and Vertumnus

U A Fanthorpe

 

 

 

 

Monclus sits above a snaking curve on the river Cèze. It boasts of being ‘one of the most beautiful villages in France’ along with many others. It is beautiful and picturesque and maybe, but I am not sure, a village of ‘second homes’ as Dutch, Belgian and Swiss surnames on the postboxes are noticeable. There is a shop and there is a reasonable bus service and a school . . . the river here has a melancholic charm maybe due to the meandering course and the relaxed, nicely unkempt bordering vegetation . . .

. . . in the village, some of the walls are clothed vegetation that appears to flow upwards and downwards. Medieval whispers emit from the walls bordering narrow ‘ruelles’ that take the visitor on a subtle, gently curving route to the château . . .

. . .with majestic donjohn towering above the château fortifications used by the Benedictines as a monastery for many years.

Place des Aires marks the summit of the village – it has immense charm and is well named. Now I start to look at details having absorbed the overall character  . . .

. . . I find I’m a tad smitten and look forward to swimming in the river here looking up to the village of whispering voices.

Imagines voices, and beloved, too,

of those who died, or of those who are
lost to us like the dead.

Sometimes in our dream they they speak to us;
sometimes in its thought the mind will hear them.

And with their sound for a moment there return
sounds from the first poetry of our life –
like music,in the night, far off,that fades away. Constantine Cavafy   Voices     trans Daniel Mendelsohn

Always a must visit and never disappoints – how could it. Such skill here and wonderful planting. The gunnera explode by the Lower Moat . . .

. . . strong colour contrasts in the Long Border.

Homes for wildlife are evident – this in the Orchard. Plant habits are also evident – from afar – with arching stems of grasses fill the background behind thrusting torchlike growths of Verbascum . . .

. . . simple stuff but also respect and love for the plants grown. That’s the clue . . . and another post on this garden in winter here.

Luxurious man, to bring his vice in use,

Did after him the world seduce,

And from the fields the flowers and plants allure,

Where nature was most plain and pure.

He first enclosed within the gardens square

A dead and standing pool of air,

And a more luscious earth for them did knead,

Which stupified them while it fed.

The pink grew then as double as his mind;

The nutriment did change the kind.

With strange perfumes he did the roses taint,

And flowers themselves were taught to paint.

The tulip, white, did for complexion seek,

And learned to interline its cheek:

Its onion root they then so high did hold,

That one was for a meadow sold.

Another world was searched, through oceans new,

To find the Marvel of Peru. 

And yet these rarities might be allowed

To man, that sovereign thing and proud,

Had he not dealt between the bark and tree,

Forbidden mixtures there to see.

No plant now knew the stock from which it came;

He grafts upon the wild the tame:

That th’ uncertain and adulterate fruit

Might put the palate in dispute.

His green seraglio has its eunuchs too,

Lest any tyrant him outdo.

And in the cherry he does nature vex,

To procreate without a sex.

’Tis all enforced, the fountain and the grot,

While the sweet fields do lie forgot:

Where willing nature does to all dispense

A wild and fragrant innocence:

And fauns and fairies do the meadows till,

More by their presence than their skill.

Their statues, polished by some ancient hand,

May to adorn the gardens stand:

But howsoe’er the figures do excel,

The gods themselves with us do dwell.  Andrew Marvell 

18 degrees forecast so a quick trip to Grau du Roi – takes about 1 1/2 hours from Uzès but with the tensions – blockages and difficulties finding petrol at the moment – all in the lap of the gods. Turned out very well with lunch by the canal.

The village, based around fishing cottages, gained administrative buildings and was recognised as a section of Aigues-Mortes in 1867, becoming a separate commune in 1879. The village of fishers and farmers turned to tourism at the end of the 19th century, with the extension of the Nîmes Aigues-Mortes railway line in 1909:[5] bathers arrived en masse, and on the 26 April 1924 the French President of the Republic decreed that Le Grau-du-Roi was a “station climatique et balnéaire” (beach resort town). The rail line enabled local producers to market their white grapes and fish nationally.

World War II affected the village profoundly. Axis troops were stationed in the village, and the local council dissolved. By 1942, many of the inhabitants had fled: the coast was on the front line and bristled with tank traps and minefields. The village was controlled by blockhouses, and the canal was shut off. Wood from houses was used to build defences. Le Grau-du-Roi was liberated in August 1944, and the coast started to rebuild, with a focus on tourism. The effort was coordinated by the plan Racine. Architect Jean Balladur was put in charge, and he designed structures capable of supporting a large number of tourists, while also supporting the local way of life and environment. Part of the plan included the new marina at Port Camargue.[2] This was launched in 1968 and finished in 1985 – info from Wikipedia.

The sandy L’Espiguette beach sits south-west of Aigues- Mortes ( dead – water) and the étangs, shallow and saline, and surrounding marshes of the Camargue inhabited by flamingoes, white horses and bulls.

Patterns of the effect of wind and water but no plastic to be seen. As a regional parkland it is very well maintained. one of those extra special days. The poem is about a different coast but I like it.

To step over the low wall that divides
Road from concrete walk above the shore
Brings sharply back something known long before—
The miniature gaiety of seasides.
Everything crowds under the low horizon:
Steep beach, blue water, towels, red bathing caps,
The small hushed waves’ repeated fresh collapse
Up the warm yellow sand, and further off
A white steamer stuck in the afternoon—
Still going on, all of it, still going on!
To lie, eat, sleep in hearing of the surf
(Ears to transistors, that sound tame enough
Under the sky), or gently up and down
Lead the uncertain children, frilled in white
And grasping at enormous air, or wheel
The rigid old along for them to feel
A final summer, plainly still occurs
As half an annual pleasure, half a rite,
As when, happy at being on my own,
I searched the sand for Famous Cricketers,
Or, farther back, my parents, listeners
To the same seaside quack, first became known.
Strange to it now, I watch the cloudless scene:
The same clear water over smoothed pebbles,
The distant bathers’ weak protesting trebles
Down at its edge, and then the cheap cigars,
The chocolate-papers, tea-leaves, and, between
The rocks, the rusting soup-tins, till the first
Few families start the trek back to the cars.
The white steamer has gone. Like breathed-on glass
The sunlight has turned milky. If the worst
Of flawless weather is our falling short,
It may be that through habit these do best,
Coming to the water clumsily undressed
Yearly; teaching their children by a sort
Of clowning; helping the old, too, as they ought.
Philip Larkin To the Sea

ville et campagne

May 28, 2018

Ville – Arles; appreciating a sculpture by Marc Nucera – elegant but purposeful and somehow wistful –  in front of the Chapelle de Méjan. Then on to the Foundation Vincent Van Gogh  . . .

. . . where the courtyard displays a feature bursting with colour and water.

Inside, one of the exhibitions is Soleil Chaud, Soleil Tardif. Les Modernes Indomptés. Vincent’s railway carriages with other works showing the influence of Millet and Monticelli; some Calder patterns; Polke’s work well lit.

Metaphors of the sun, Mediterranean region and experimentation from Modernists and Post Modernists. Joan Mitchell’s Sunflowers . .

. . . and No Birds. Also de Chirico and videos of performances by Sun Ra alongside vibrant LP covers – those were the days.

Later works from Picasso: Man playing the Guitar and Old Man Sitting.

Upstairs in the original rooms . . .

. . . an exhibition of an English Modernist, Paul Nash, curated as Eléments Lumineux –  “works imbued with a surreal atmosphere and a sense of the finite, against a background of death and war”(catalogue).

From the roof terrace, a well manged parthenocissus clings to the walls of a secret courtyard. And out into Place du Forum to gaze upwards.

Ville – Nimes; banks of Cistus monspeliensis flowering with panache alongside Esplanade Charles-de-Gaulle.

Campagne – Anduze. La Bambouseraie en Cévennes a couple of weeks ago with wisteria in full bloom – heavenly scent – Davidia in discreet bloom and the final flowers on Akebia quinata and  so final whiff of chocolate.

from a previous visit

The Mind is a wonderful Thing  Marianne Moore

is an enchanted thing
like the glaze on a
katydid-wing
subdivided by sun
till the nettings are legion.
Like Giesking playing Scarltti;

like the apteryx-awl
as a beak, or the
kiwi’s rain-shawl
of haired feathers, the mind
feeling its way as though blind,
walks along with its eyes on the ground.

It has memory’s ear
that can hear without
having to hear.
Like the gyroscope’s fall,
truly equivocal
because trued by regnant certainty,

it is a power of strong enchantment. It
is like the dove-
neck animated by
sun; it is memory’s eye;
it’s conscientious inconsistency.

It tears off the veil; tears
the temptation, the
mist the heart wears,
from its eyes – if the heart
has a face; it takes apart
dejection. It’s fire in the dove-neck’s

iridescence; in the inconsistencies
of Scarlatti.
Unconfusion submits
its confusion to proof; it’s
not a Herod’s oath that cannot change.

 

 

Richard Serra – an installation, a sculpture, a site specific sculpture – at Chateau la Coste to be viewed and interacted with on the Art and Arhcitecture walk around the domain. Seemingly I just snap away at things I like nowadays . . .

. . . remnants of the old farming estate have been kept such as the threshing floor outside a new chapel which I didn’t photograph.  A more interesting building ‘Four Cubes to Contemplate our Environment- a maze like structure from Tadao Ando. A palimpsest of translucent layers/facades offering plenty to absorb and think about  . . .

. . . on the way down to The Meditation Bell.

The Oak Room (Andy Goldsworthy), outside above and inside below, caught the imagination of the kids.

Big names here – Gehry, Ando, Bourgeois, Benech, Sigimoto – in this large glamorous and glossy winery vineyard cafe dining shop gallery space ‘art escape’.  Most likely the Ai Weiwei ‘Mountains and Seas’ might have flown away as my visit was some time ago . . . but I remember the very very beautiful work.

By contrast, also near Aix en Provence, a jardin remarquable, in a small town – Éguilles. Max and Anne Sauze have created somehing special in a relatively small space around one lone tree. Now there’s more and consequently increased shade and lots of bamboo. Max, the master of metal, is also a master of arrangements, of collections . . .

. . . and of pleating paper. All objets are recycled and put together to form whimsical and quirky and thought provoking ‘things’.

Mostly site specific and crossing from design to architeture to horticulture but intensely personal.

In every corner and on all surfaces, he can’t stop himself – thank goodness.

I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all
this fiddle.
Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one
discovers in
it after all, a place for the genuine.
Hands that can grasp, eyes
that can dilate, hair that can rise
if it must, these things are important not because a

high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them but because
they are
useful. When they become so derivative as to become
unintelligible,
the same thing may be said for all of us, that we
do not admire what
we cannot understand: the bat
holding on upside down or in quest of something to

eat, elephants pushing, a wild horse taking a roll, a tireless wolf
under
a tree, the immovable critic twitching his skin like a horse that
feels a
flea, the base-
ball fan, the statistician–
nor is it valid
to discriminate against ‘business documents and

school-books’; all these phenomena are important. One must
make a distinction
however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the
result is not poetry,
nor till the poets among us can be
‘literalists of
the imagination’–above
insolence and triviality and can present

for inspection, ‘imaginary gardens with real toads in them’, shall
we have
it. In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand,
the raw material of poetry in
all its rawness and
that which is on the other hand
genuine, you are interested in poetry. Marianne Moore   Poetry 

 

an afternoon with some sun prompts a visit to birds, habitats, landscape at Dungeness. Flat lands – gravel pits, pebbles, tamarisk, buckthorn, reeds – offer diverse habitats. Sparrows and Cetti’s warblers sing in the hedges. . .

. . . while shovelers, Slavonian grebe and smews can be viewed from the hides.

Apparently, just missed the Bewick swans and a bittern but a glimpse of a great white egret storking the shallows made up for the misses and there’s always someone to let you know what is where or was here – just now.

EDF own the power station and, now, the Dungeness estate. A strange back cloth to the cormorants perching like black shrouds on the submerged scrub . . .

. . . it’s very mellow and somewhat ghostlike. Perhaps this is fleece stretched into the twigs. The sheep are huge with thick wooly coats and some big bellies.

Lydd church standing proud and a few spreads of coppery willow . . .

 

. . . at Prospect Cottage as the clouds move in across the low sun – all is quiet.

 

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its lovliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darkn’d ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make
‘Gainst the hot season; the mid-forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms:
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
We have imagined for the mighty dead;
An endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring unto us from the heaven’s brink. John Keats

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